Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 5, 2013

Different QBs starting for WVU, Baylor


Associated Press

WACO, Texas — Nick Florence’s best career passing game for Baylor was good enough to break the school record of a Heisman Trophy winner, even as the Bears came up short against West Virginia.

The numbers from last year are still downright dizzying from when the Mountaineers won 70-63 in their first-ever Big 12 game. Along with the combined 133 points and 1,507 total yards, there were 13 touchdown passes — eight by West Virginia’s Geno Smith.

When the 17th-ranked Bears (3-0) host West Virginia on Saturday night in the rematch of the Big 12’s highest-scoring game ever, there will be different quarterbacks on both sides.

Baylor, playing its Big 12 opener, certainly seems more settled at the most visible position.

Bryce Petty, the fourth-year junior who waited his turn backing up Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and Florence, has thrown for 1,001 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three Baylor starts. The Bears are the nation’s highest-scoring (69.7 points per game) and most productive offense with 751 yards per game.

“At this point, I’m still just getting my feet wet,” Petty said. “I hope it gets better. I would love to sit here after West Virginia and OU and K-State, Big 12 games, and have a 70-7 game. ... You can’t get complacent.”

Florence threw for 1,004 yards in the first three games last season, then broke Griffin’s school record with 581 yards against WVU while throwing five TDs.

West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) has already used three different starting quarterbacks in the five games since Smith, who passed for 656 yards against Baylor, went to the NFL.

Clint Trickett, even after hurting his throwing arm in a surprising victory over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State when he threw for 309 yards, will make his second start in a row. Ford Childress is hampered by a torn pectoral muscle after replacing Paul Millard as starter.

“When we played Baylor last year, you were looking at two experienced offenses that really pushed the envelope on tempo,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We haven’t been doing that as much, but we did it last week. We were more comfortable with it last week. They will do it all the time.”

Here are five things to know when West Virginia and Baylor try to keep up with each other Saturday night.

STEPPING UP: All of Baylor’s big numbers so far have been put up against overmatched competition, such as FCS team Wofford and Buffalo. It’s now full speed ahead into Big 12 play. “We’re not hyping it up,” said running back Lache Seastrunk, the Big 12’s leading rusher (139 yards per game) and with a school-record seven consecutive 100-yard games. “We’re going in it like every other week, just another team, treat them as a threat.” The Bears’ seven-game winning streak is the Big 12’s longest.

NOT SO SPECIAL RETURNS: West Virginia has had big problems in its punt and kick return games. There have been fumble issues and players catching punts inside the 10. Holgorsen said their kickoff returns “are garbage.” He was so frustrated that he held open auditions to find guys “who can catch it and run.” He expects a couple of new people returning kicks, maybe even freshmen.

WELL-RESTED BEARS IN SYNCH?: Baylor plays for only the second time in 28 days, with open dates before and after its 70-7 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 21. “I wouldn’t like it,” Holgorsen said. “Timing is a big deal. That’s always an issue with a bye week.” The Mountaineers are the only Big 12 team that hasn’t had yet had an open date — that comes next week. They were the only one to play two conference games before this weekend. The first break didn’t affect the Bears, who had 781 total yards against Louisiana-Monroe, matching the school record set two weeks earlier against Buffalo.

BREAK THE PATTERNS: The Mountaineers need to break the pattern of alternating wins and losses. They are coming off a 30-21 win over Oklahoma State, a week after a 37-0 loss at Maryland. There are no consecutive victories or consecutive losses for far this season. The other trend they need to alter? All their wins are at home, each loss is on the road.

BRING THE BLING: The Bears are wearing gold chrome helmets they revealed earlier this year. “It will be alive,” Petty said. “It always helps to spice it up. ... Does it affect us going out there and playing harder because we are wearing chrome helmets? No. But it does add to the atmosphere and the hype for us going out to know we look good so let’s play good.”